HOUSTON -- One day after sitting out to rest a sore forearm, shortstop Andrelton Simmons bounced back in dramatic fashion, homering twice and recording five RBIs in the Angels' 8-7 comeback win over the Astros on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Angels, who survived an uneven outing from two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, have won the first two contests of the three-game series with the Astros and moved a half-game ahead of them into first place in the American League West standings. It also marked the Angels' 11th straight road victory.
"It's big, man, big," Simmons said. "The Astros are a good team, no denying it. You go head to head and you put up some runs and they come back. They take the lead, you show some resilience and put up some more runs and the pitchers end up keeping the lead for you and you win the game. It's big."
Ohtani yielded four runs and five walks over 5 1/3 innings, throwing a season-high 98 pitches.
Simmons, playing for the first time since a hit by pitch knocked him out in the fourth inning of Sunday's game against the Giants, recorded three hits. None was bigger than his go-ahead three-run homer off Houston reliever Joe Smith in the seventh inning to give the Angels an 8-5 lead.
"I knew off the bat it had distance," Simmons said. "I just wasn't sure if it was going to hook foul and ruin my night. I stayed through, so that was good."
The home run occurred just after Jose Pujols logged his 2,993rd career hit -- an RBI single that tied the game at 5.
The Angels had lost five of six games entering this series and needed to clean up several areas, both offensively and pitching-wise. Given the strength of the Astros, they knew they were in for a tall task. The significance of winning the first two games of this series was not lost on the players.
"They won the World Series last year," Simmons said. "We beat them two times in a row, and it's just a confidence boost for us. It shows us we're capable of beating them."
Added Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "We did a lot of things in these two games that we needed to do. First game -- two-zip -- we pitched really well, held leads, played good defense, got a couple key hits. Tonight, we just pounded the ball and got enough runs to hold a lead.
"It was good to see some of the things come together. It's a long year, and we just need to do some of the things we did these two nights on a consistent basis."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
In an 8-7 ballgame, third baseman Zack Cozart made a nice stop on a hard-hit ball by George Springer with the bases loaded in the seventh, getting the forceout at second base and ending one of the Astros' biggest threats of the game. Angels relievers held the Astros scoreless the final two innings to seal the win.
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According to STATS, Ohtani is the fifth player in MLB history to strike out the reigning MVP Award winner (Jose Altuve) and homer off the reigning Cy Young Award winner (Corey Kluber) in the same season. The others are Clay Carroll (1969), Mel Stottlemyre ('70), Livan Hernandez ('99) and Madison Bumgarner (2015).
HE SAID IT
"It's huge for us. The last couple of years, we struggled against those guys, especially in this ballpark. You're facing some of the best pitchers in the game, and they have pretty good guys over there. To be able to come here and take two, it's always great." -- Pujols
The Angels wrap up their series in Houston at 11:10 a.m. PT on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. Pujols will continue his quest for 3,000 hits but will have to do so against Houston right-hander Justin Verlander (3-0), who has one of the lowest ERAs in the American League. The Angels will send right-hander Nick Tropeano (1-1, 3.75), a former Astros Draft pick, to the mound for the series finale.